Mighty Heart will continue his quest to join an elite group of horses to sweep all three legs of the OLG Canadian Triple Crown this Saturday in the $400,000 Breeders’ Stakes at Woodbine Racetrack.
Trained by Hall of Famer and three-time Queen’s Plate winner Josie Carroll, Mighty Heart headlines the final jewel of the tri-surface series for Canadian-bred three-year-olds, which concludes on Woodbine’s world-renowned E.P. Taylor Turf Course with the longest leg at the distance of 1 ½-miles.
The son of Dramedy, bred and owned by Lawrence Cordes, is the even-money morning line favourite in the field of 12 having already scored wins in the $1 million Queen’s Plate at 1 ¼ miles over Woodbine’s Tapeta track on September 12 and the $400,000 Prince of Wales at 1 3/16 miles over Fort Erie’s dirt course on September 29.
"He's a little horse that's overcome [a lot],” said Carroll, who won the 2006 Plate with Edenwold and the 2011 running with the filly Inglorious. “There's something in racing we call heart, and horses with heart are what you're looking for more so sometimes than horses with talent.”
Aside from contending with 11 rivals, Mighty Heart could have to contend with turf that has some give to it. The Toronto area has experienced rainy weather in the lead-up to Saturday.
“I can’t tell you how he’s going to handle a yielding turf,” offered Carroll. “In North America, we very seldom get the chance to run on very soft turf. I believe he’ll handle the grass. He’s run once on the grass, and we had him up on the E.P. course the other day, and he just skipped across it. Pedigree-wise, we have every reason to think he’ll handle it [the 1 ½-mile distance], but until a horse does that, you really don’t know. It’s a very, very challenging thing to be asking him to do right now. This horse has run two hard races and now you’re asking him to go a mile and a half on a possibly tiring course. Hopefully, he’s up to the challenge.”
Mighty Heart, picture Michael Burns Photography
Cordes is thrilled to see the outpouring of affection for Mighty Heart, which continues to swell ahead of the Breeders’ Stakes.
"In this time of COVID, this is a boost to people,” he said. “The phone calls I get from the west coast to east coast of Canada, my girlfriend and I have had multiple dozens of calls... people are just so excited. I feel the same thing, it just puts the excitement into me, so for all of the racing fans and all of his fans, let's make it happen. Just cheer him on, we need everything we can get."
Mighty Heart will once again have Daisuke Fukumoto in the irons.
The young Japanese-born rider is still wrapping his head around the significance of what it would mean to come out on top in the Breeders’ Stakes.
"It would be very special,” said Fukumoto. “To win the Queen's Plate is already special, but the Triple Crown is the highest. You never think of winning the Triple Crown.”
The pair will square off against some familiar foes on Saturday.
Trained by Kevin Attard, Clayton (6-1), who won the Plate Trial in mid-August, was third in the Queen’s Plate and runner-up in the Prince of Wales. Owned by Donato Lanni and Daniel Plouffe, the son of Bodemeister finished second, 2 ½ lengths behind Mighty Heart in the middle jewel at 1 3/16 miles over Fort Erie’s dirt track on September 29.
Belichick, who finished a strong second in the Queen’s Plate, and is the 7-2 second choice in the morning line, will look to turn the tables on his stablemate.
The son of Lemon Drop Kid, also coached by Carroll, has a pair of seconds and a third in three lifetime starts.
Owned by NK Racing and LNJ Foxwoods, Belichick should appreciate the move to turf and the mile-and-a-half distance.
“This is a really talented horse,” said Carroll, who won the 2014 Breeders’ Stakes with Ami’s Holiday. “I think from the moment he came in my barn, he showed a great deal of ability. If anything has surprised me, it’s that it has taken this long for him to really blossom. I’m not surprised to have him in this position. It’s also very rewarding to train a horse of his caliber.”
Other Breeders’ Stakes hopefuls include Conrad Farms’ Muskoka Giant (20-1), who broke his maiden over one mile of turf two starts prior to his fifth-place finish in the Prince of Wales for trainer Mark Casse.
A two-time (2014 with Lexie Lou and in 2018 with Wonder Gadot) Queen’s Plate winner, Casse, who won the 2007 Breeders’ with Marchfield and the 2018 renewal with Neepawa, will also send out Deviant (30-1).
A chestnut son of Daredevil, Deviant won last year’s El Joven Stakes and Sunday Silence Stakes. The Red Lane Thoroughbreds’ gelding will be making his second straight start at Woodbine, after finishing seventh in the Queenston Stakes this July.
Unraced as a two-year-old, English Conqueror (12-1), a chestnut son of English Channel, will make his Triple Crown debut in the Breeders’.
Bred and owned by JWS Farms, the Darwin Banach trainee finished third in his career bow on July 5 at Woodbine, a seven-furlong maiden special weight turf engagement. After a disappointing 10th-place finish next time out, English Conqueror rebounded with a fourth in 1 1/16 mile race run on the E.P. Taylor Turf Course, an effort that saw him display plenty of vigor in the late going.
He arrives at the Breeders’ off a maiden-breaking score on September 19, a head victory that was earned over 1 1/16 miles on the Woodbine Inner Turf.
“He’s doing really well,” said Banach. “He’s like an immature little boy, in that it took him a little while to learn what was going on, and he’s still learning. You have to ask him to do what you want him to do. He doesn’t just go ahead and do it. I thought Emma [jockey, Wilson] would suit this horse fantastically after he finished fourth, and it did. I was quite concerned in that race because they went so slow early, but he does have a great turn of foot and he was able to kick on from there, get the lead and then get the win. I was very happy with that effort.”
Banach believes the lightly-raced Ontario-bred will be even better on Saturday.
“We always thought he was a good horse. We even considered the Queen’s Plate and other races, but he couldn’t quite get his game together before that time. So, here we are. We think he can handle a mile and a half and we’ve got to give it a shot.”
A victory would be even more special considering the sire of English Conqueror’s dam, champion Sky Conqueror, was bred and owned by William Sorokolit, Sr., who recently passed away.
Banach trained the multiple graded stakes winning son of Sky Classic for Sorokolit. Sky Conqueror’s victories included consecutive (2006-07) editions of the Northern Dancer Turf Stakes (G2T) and the 2007 running of the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1T). Multiple graded stakes winner Classic Stamp was also another a horse of note for Sorokolit.
A successful businessman and entrepreneur, Sorokolit won 212 career races along with over $10.1 million (U.S.) in purse earnings.
“Emma rode Sky Conqueror, so maybe this is meant to be,” said Banach. “We loved training for Mr. Sorokolit and he’ll be dearly missed. I believe he started owning horses in university, so for 70-some years he owned horses.”
Enchant Me (50-1), Glorious Tribute (30-1), and Olliemyboy (12-1) will also go postward after making an appearance in the opening legs of the Triple Crown.
Told It All (12-1), Meyer (30-1) and Kunal (50-1) complete the field.
In 2018, the Casse-trained filly Wonder Gadot won the first two Triple Crown races but did not compete in the Breeders' Stakes. Casse sent out Neepawa to victory in the final leg that year.
The last Triple Crown contender prior to Wonder Gadot was the great Wando, just the seventh horse to complete the series sweep since it was established in 1959 when he won the 2003 Breeders' Stakes with jockey Patrick Husbands aboard for trainer Michael Keogh and the late owner/breeder Gustav Schickedanz.
Since then, A Bit O'Gold (2004), Pender Harbour (2011) and Tone Broke (2019) also claimed two-thirds of the Triple Crown by taking the last two legs.
The longest shot to win the Breeders’ was Miami Deco in 2010. The Ontario-bred son of Limehouse returned $132.10 for a $2 win bet. Catherine Day Phillips became the first female trainer to win the race courtesy of A Bit O’Gold in 2004. One year later, she was in the winner’s circle again, this time with Jambalaya. Roger Attfield holds the record for most wins by a trainer with nine. His first came with Carotene in 1986. Jockey Rafael Hernandez has won three of the past four runnings.
“This is a great time for racing in Ontario,” said Woodbine Entertainment CEO Jim Lawson. “It’s fun. It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to promote the sport of horse racing. We’re thrilled that there is this opportunity.”
Post time is set for 1:10 p.m. ET, with the Breeders' Stakes scheduled as the tenth race (approximately 5:43 p.m. ET). The historic event will be broadcast live from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET on TSN. Coverage is led by Canadian broadcasting legend Brian Williams, alongside TSN’s Laura Diakun and Woodbine Entertainment’s Jason Portuondo, with Brodie Lawson contributing reports from track level.
FIELD FOR THE BREEDERS’ STAKES
Post – Horse – Jockey – Trainer – Owner – Morning Line
1 – Meyer – Sahin Civaci – Martin Drexler – Bruno Schickedanz – 30-1
2 – Enchant Me – Steven Bahen – Santino Di Paola – York Tech Racing Stable – 50-1
3 – Clayton – Rafael Hernandez – Kevin Attard – Donato Lanni and Daniel Plouffe – 6-1
4 – Olliemyboy – Patrick Husbands – Sid Attard – JMJ Racing Stables LLC – 12-1
5 – English Conqueror – Emma-Jayne Wilson – Darwin Banach – JWS Farms – 12-1*
6 – Glorious Tribute – David Moran – Barbara Minshall – Bruce Lunsford – 30-1
7 – Deviant – Jerome Lermyte – Mark Casse – Red Lane Thoroughbreds LLC – 30-1
8 – Mighty Heart – Daisuke Fukumoto – Josie Carroll – Lawrence Cordes – 1-1
9 – Belichick – Luis Contreras – Josie Carroll – NK Racing and LNJ Foxwoods – 7-2
10 – Kunal – Emile Ramsammy – Steven Chircop – Bruno Schickedanz – 50-1
11 – Told It All – Kazushi Kimura – Norm McKnight – Rainbow Stables – 12-1*
12 – Muskoka Giant – Justin Stein – Mark Casse – Conrad Farms – 20-1